Golf course architecture is enjoying another of its periodic turns in the spotlight, and Myrtle Beach has more than its fair share of courses designed by the game’s biggest names, including the likes of Tom Doak, Pete Dye, Mike Strantz and Tom Fazio.
The Grand Strand is also home to one of the best architects few people have heard of outside the Carolinas: Tim Cate. Most known for his work at Ocean Ridge Plantation, Cate has plied his trade almost exclusively just across the state line in Brunswick County, N.C., where he has crafted a quartet of layouts that helped shine a national spotlight on the area.
If your next Myrtle Beach golf trip takes you to the North Strand and you want to experience a Cate design, here are four of Brunswick County’s best.
– Cate’s first solo effort, Panther’s Run was the second of Ocean Ridge’s Big Cats and it made him a sought-after architect. Playing through a nature preserve, Panther’s Run features water on 16 of 18 holes and closes with a flourish. The 380-yard 18th hole (all distances from the white tees) demands a carry over water, providing a dramatic finish to an enjoyable round.
– Thistle, a 27-hole Scottish-inspired property, was Cate’s second course and it confirmed his reputation as a promising young designer. Generous fairways and mounding provide ample latitude off the tee, but Thistle is a second-shot golf course. Stacked sod bunkers flank large, undulating greens, placing a premium on approach shots. Thistle is one of the area’s top 20 layouts, according to a survey of local PGA professionals, and a treat to play.
– By the time Tiger’s Eye opened, Myrtle Beach golfers were familiar with Cate but the third Big Cat attracted national attention. Featuring locally harvested coquina boulders, waste bunkers and ample water, the course is visually stunning. Tiger’s Eye was ranked among “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses” by Golf Digest, a testament to the quality and creativity of the design.
– Cate completed Ocean Ridge’s quartet of Big Cats courses with the 2007 opening of Leopard’s Chase, another “big” course that presents visual contrast and a fair but firm challenge. Speaking to its quality, Leopard’s Chase was named one of the best new courses in America by both Golf Magazine and Golf Digest.
Tim Cate’s name may not be immediately recognizable, but his courses have anchored many memorable golf trips.